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My Marketing Birthday

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My Marketing Birthday
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What did you get for your birthday? Before you answer, I’m not asking about what you received from your Mom, your kids, or your spouse. I’m wondering what landed in your email inbox.

Mine was full of birthday wishes from a variety of sources. I’d like to say that I received cheerful relevant messages and free gifts from my “favorite” brands, collectively indicating the power of Big Data coming into full bloom. What I received in reality was a potpourri of insincerity sprinkled with a very small handful of messages that could be accurately construed as “personalized”.

George Anderson, Editor and one of the founders of RetailWire had a similar experience. You can read his story here along with comments and insights from members of the RetailWire Brain Trust.

The birthday wishes in my inbox that caught my attention included two free gifts, courtesy of Starbucks and Panera Bread. I received a free birthday drink from Starbucks Rewards and a “special surprise” from MyPanera. The fact that My Panera’s gift came one day after my birthday was perfectly ok – it just allowed me to celebrate one additional day. And, the Free Birthday Pastry I received won’t grow stale as I have 60 days to redeem it.

After those two gifts, birthday wishes from other brands went south, quickly. Southwest Airlines invited me to complete a survey, in the process identifying my favorite travel destination and gaining entry into a sweepstakes to win up to 25,000 Rapid Rewards Bonus Points. In the hopes of learning a bit more about me, Southwest was willing to give up very little, but wisely positioned the possibility of winning 25,000 bonus points in Rapid Rewards as an example of a low cost incentive with high perceived value.

In all, I guess I didn’t get much attention on my birthday considering all of the customer loyalty and reward programs I have joined. I didn’t hear from any other loyalty brands, but oddly received birthday wishes from a bank that finances one of our family vehicles.

To top it off, oneblood.org send me a birthday note urging me to “please accept our warmest wishes for a birthday filled with happiness and continued good health”. They also reminded me that it is time to give blood again. If you don’t know, oneblood.org does have its own rewards program, Donor Rewards, through which it is easy to earn movie tickets and a free dinner with Outback Steakhouse and other restaurants.

Birthdays are filled with expectations and mine was disappointing from a loyalty marketer’s point of view. Relevant communications in a trusted environment is a standard promise of loyalty programs. Knowing a member’s birthday is one of the most expected bits of information for a loyalty program sponsor to own. To think that only 4 brands among the dozens of programs that I belong to would take advantage of an easy opportunity to communicate with me is the biggest surprise I received on my birthday.

And you wonder why we say that under-utilization of customer data is one of the three unfulfilled promises of loyalty marketing? Now you know.

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